Nike Co-Founder Now Believes Freeh Report Tarnished Paterno's Reputation
In a complete turnaround, Nike co-founder Phil Knight now believes that the late Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno's reputation has been tarnished by the "unjustified and unsubstantiated" findings of the Freeh report.
In July, Knight was convinced by the Freeh report that Paterno was part of a systemic cover-up that had protected former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted last year of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
"According to the investigation, it appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences," Knight then said. "I missed that Joe missed it, and I'm extremely saddened on this day."
However, Knight acknowledged he had issued that statement without having read all 267 pages of the report.
"When I later took the time to do so, I was surprised to learn that the alarming allegations, which so disturbed the nation, were essentially theories and assertions rather than solid charges backed by solid evidence," Knight said in a statement.
"On reflection, I may have unintentionally contributed to a rush to judgment," he added.
Knight's statement came one day after the Paterno family released a 238-page rebuttal to the university-commissioned inquiry of former FBI director Louis J. Freeh.
Experts hired by a law firm representing the Paterno family, including former attorney general Dick Thornburgh, called the Freeh report a "failure that is loaded with errors, disputed allegations, personal opinions, unsubstantiated theories and bias".
In his statement, Knight also criticized the NCAA, saying its actions on Paterno are exposed by Paterno family's rebuttal as totally unwarranted.
"The NCAA acted outside its charter and rendered judgment absent any kind of investigation or judicial hearing. It was simply grandstanding," Knight said.
The NCAA has declined to comment on the Paterno family report while Freeh defended his report, calling the rebuttal as "self-serving".
Meanwhile, sources revealed that a large group of plaintiffs, including students, faculty, alumni, members of Penn State's board of trustees and the Paterno family, are discussing filing a lawsuit against the NCAA in the coming weeks to overturn the sanctions.
After the scandal, the NCAA has imposed several sanctions on Penn State, including a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine and the forfeiture of 112 wins by Paterno from 1998 through 2011.
Prior to the ruling, Paterno held the record for the most career wins by a coach on the major-college level.
Paterno Family Responds to Freeh Report
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